live AQI index
|Air pollution level||Air quality index||Main pollutant|
|Unhealthy|| 186 US AQI||PM2.5|
|PM2.5|| 123.6 µg/m³|
|Wednesday, Mar 3|
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 105 US AQI
|Thursday, Mar 4|
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 134 US AQI
|Friday, Mar 5|
Unhealthy 153 US AQI
Unhealthy 159 US AQI
|Sunday, Mar 7|
Moderate 79 US AQI
|Monday, Mar 8|
Moderate 63 US AQI
|Tuesday, Mar 9|
Moderate 85 US AQI
|Wednesday, Mar 10|
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 130 US AQI
|Thursday, Mar 11|
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 104 US AQI
|Friday, Mar 12|
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 115 US AQI
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Kabul is a city located in the eastern region of Afghanistan, being the capital as well as the largest city in the country. With a population of some 4.2 million, Kabul is the economic heart of Afghanistan and undergoing rapid growth in terms of its infrastructure and urbanization. This has led to some rather large pollution related issues in Kabul, with high readings of PM2.5 coming in year-round.
Despite having a backdrop of beautiful mountain ranges and other geographical traits, Kabul as a city is suffering the effects of this rapid urbanization, seeing some of the worst pollution levels in the world. In 2019, Kabul came in with a PM2.5 reading of 58.8 μg/m³ as its yearly average. This reading puts it into the ‘unhealthy’ ratings bracket, which requires a PM2.5 reading of anywhere between 55.5 to 150.4 μg/m³.
Whilst this yearly average is on the lower end of the unhealthy bracket, as the name implies, the air quality would be very poor, with large amounts of smoke, haze and fine particulate matter permeating the air and causing harm to its citizens.
Kabul's 2019 reading of 58.8 μg/m³ put it in 70th place out of all the most polluted cities ranked worldwide, with the highly polluted city of Ghaziabad, India taking first place. Kabul’s readings, due to being the only ones taken out of any of Afghanistan's cities in 2019, were high enough to place it into the 4th most polluted country worldwide, coming in behind Mongolia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This makes Kabul's air very polluted, with dangers to all portions of the population being present.
Whilst it may be undergoing rapid urbanization, there are still many parts of the city and people without proper access to electricity and other fundamental aspects of life. Due to this, many citizens resort to the burning of various materials to provide energy for cooking, small businesses and heating.
It has been well documented that people have turned to using material such as plastics, rubber, wood and coal for their energy and heat needs, with a rapid spike of pollution being seen in the colder month’s being testament to this. The burning of fossil fuels, organic matter such as wood and synthetic man-made materials such as rubber tires and various forms of plastic can lead to disastrous levels of pollution coalescing in the city’s atmosphere.
Other causes include a large number of improperly paved roads adding to the amount of fine particulate matter such as PM2.5 and PM10 in the air, and many unregistered settlements and construction sites also contributing heavily. These factors would all add up and compound each other, thus being seen in the extremely high levels of pollution registered throughout the year, with PM2.5 highs of 196 μg/m³ being seen in December 2019, a number that is deadly enough to hospitalize large amounts of the population, both the healthy and sick alike.
With materials such as plastic and rubber being burnt in high quantities, the air in Kabul would be host to a large amount of extremely unwanted chemicals and fine particulate matter, all of which can enter the body via respiration and in some cases pass through the blood barrier into the blood stream, causing disastrous effects on people’s health.
Burnt plastic would release compounds and gases such as furans, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls as well as toxic metals such as lead and mercury. These have ill effects on both human health as well as the environment, leading to ecosystems and areas of greenery being decimated.
Other pollutants found in the air would include finely ground particles of silica and gravel dust, released from the unpaved roads and construction sites. These particles can enter into the lungs and cause scarring as well as a reduction in full respiratory function. Of note is that vehicular emission would also be playing a prominent part in year-round ambient pollution readings, with compounds such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) all permeating the air.
Health effects would be numerous in Kabul, growing in direct correlation with pollution levels seen, with months of higher PM2.5 readings being the most detrimental. Symptoms of breathing this air would include irritation to the eyes, mouth, nose and throat, as well as chronic chest infections and other respiratory ailments. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) would present itself and the myriad of conditions that fall under this umbrella term, with bronchitis, emphysema and aggravated forms of asthma all being part of that collective.
Exposure to plastic fumes can cause increased rates of cancer over longer periods (similar to many other of the materials mentioned in the previous list, with a large amount of them having carcinogenic properties). The carbon monoxide (CO) released can cause instances of rapid death in homes where there is not enough ventilation, and the toxic chemicals and elements such as cyanide, mercury and lead can all cause irreversible damage to the nervous system, leading to chronic fatigue, cognitive defects, increased instances of fatal heart attacks or strokes, as well as less severe symptoms such as headaches and all round increase in illness susceptibility, thus heavily reducing the quality of life for those who are exposed.
Observing the date taken over 2019, as mentioned before it is clear that during the colder months is when the large spikes in PM2.5 and other pollutants are seen, with large increases of particulate matter as well as a prominent worsening of the US AQI readings. April through to September are the cleanest months, with June actually coming in with a very good quality of air at 9.6 μg/m³, putting it within the World Health Organizations target for safe air quality levels (0 to 10 μg/m³).
Around October is when a massive decline in air quality is seen, with October jumping to 45.1 μg/m³, then to 60.9 μg/m³ in November, and finally reaching its peak at 196 μg/m³ in December. Naturally, January is also a highly polluted month with the winters thrall still affecting the amount of material that people are burning. It came in with a reading of 145 μg/m³, before dropping rapidly in February down to 58.7 μg/m³, and then further to 40.1 μg/m³ in March. Thus, the most dangerous time to be breathing the air in Kabul is during winter, or from the months of October through to March of the following year.